Is it Soda Ash? Unincorporated Coconut Milk Powder? or something else?

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Hello friends! I've got a conundrum here.

I recently made a batch of unscented soap using Coconut Milk Powder. The final bars started looking ashy within 24-48 hours of unmolding. They were unmolded 24 hours after making the batch. I used my regular recipe (attached) with only the Coconut Milk powder as the only change; I used 10g Coconut Milk Powder for 1 kg of oils. I added the powder to my hard oils as I melted them; they were only sitting in the oils for maybe 10 minutes at the most before I added the lye-water solution. There are a few theories I have that I'm hoping someone can confirm; or maybe there is another explanation that I haven't thought of:

1) I did not incorporate the Coconut Milk Powder properly. I cut one of the rose bars to look inside. I don't see anything there, but maybe it will happen now that I've cut it. We will have to see!

2) Just soda ash. I thought I'd be okay since it had been 24 hours, but maybe I was wrong. My home is kind of on the cooler side.

3) Residue from new silicone molds. These were brand new cavity molds; maybe they had a residue from manufacturing. Should I be washing my new molds before I use them for the first time? I've also attached a picture of a bar from my first two batches, made a couple months ago in a silicone lined wooden mold. No ashy-ness.

I think that's everything, but in case I forgot to include some information, please ask. Thanks in advance for your help!

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Sorry; uploaded the wrong recipe. Here is the correct one.

Super fat 5%
Lye Concentration 35%

267g water
144g NaOH lye

Olive Oil 40%: 400g
Coconut Oil 30%: 300g
Palm Oil 20%: 200g
Apricot Kernal Oil 5%: 50g
Castor Oil 5%: 50g

Coconut Milk Powder: 10g
Mica: 10g
 

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  • CWSoap_1kg_Unscented.pdf
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Hi, always good practice. To wash new molds. Before first use. Looks like Ash. Did it develope? Or look like that when you unmolded? I keep my bars covered. Even after cutting. Reuse plastic wrap. Used to cover mold.
 
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Do you add sodium lactate/citrate or vinegar? I've had sodium lactate look like this on the underside of silicone moulds.

I'm wondering if it might be two things actually. Part of it looks suspiciously like stearic spots. You have stirred your palm oil thoroughly, and heated the oils up to 60°C /until absolutely clear? CPOP will help here too.

In any case, if you don't want to rely on your powder incorporation skills, you can divert part of the water intended for the lye (up to 100 g), and dissolve the coconut milk powder in it ahead of time.

What type of coconut milk powder was it? There are some with additives (gums, emulsifiers, maltodextrin…) that might or might not behave strangely in soap.
 
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It did develop around 24 hours after unmolding. When unmolded, they were beautiful and looked like how it does when I cut that one soap. It's now been a little over 12 hours since I cut that one bar and it has not developed any white residue, looking the same as when I cut it.

Passes the zap test!

I just did straight CP. I did not even try to force gel; that and oven process is still to intimidating for me to try, so I didn't even bother.

I did not add anything other than the coconut milk powder and mica to my recipe. The coconut milk powder is from Candora Soaps (Coconut Milk Powder Candora Soap) and mica is from Fizz Fairy (Lipstick Red Mica).

All other ingredients are from the same packages as used in my first few batches.

I weighed out the Palm, Coconut oil, mica, and coconut milk powder, then melted them all together with a double boiler to at least 60C (it was probably more like 61-63ISH); everything was VERY liquid and smooth.

This was my first time using silicone cavity molds with my CP soap, so I'm now assuming it's ash. Since it's not inside when I cut.
 

TheGecko

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It's always a good idea to wash new equipment whether it's for the kitchen or soap making.

Soda Ash forms when unsaponified lye reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air. This does not mean that your soap is 'lye-heavy', it's simply that cold process soap can take more than 24 hours to fully saponify. Some things that you can to do prevent Soda Ash from forming is to spritz your soaps with 99% IPA to form a barrier between the batter and the air; you can cover your soap with plastic wrap or a hard covering; you can wait several days before unmolding your soap; you can use a higher lye concentration (less water).

But honestly...I haven't found a particular rhyme or reason to Soda Ash. I've gotten it with/without IPA, I've gotten it with/without plastic wrap, I've gotten it before unmolding and after waiting several days to unmold, I've gotten it when it's hot and I've gotten it when it's cold, I've had a light dusting of SA, I've had a thick layer, I've gotten it/not gotten it in the kitchen...same with the garage. I once split a batch of soap between a 4" Square Silicone Mold and 45 3/4 oz cavity molds. No SA on the 4" mold, but the 3/4 oz soaps went from the tiniest sprinkle of SA to having to toss them after a week because they almost all turned 100% into ash (really weird). This suggested to me that if SA formed I had to deal with it right away (plane, wash, steam), but that also turned out to not be true as I had some soaps that I had made over the summer that had gotten a little bit of SA on them and had forgotten about until just before Christmas and it never got worse.
 
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Thanks @TheGecko ! From reading Soap Queen's blog post (Explaining and Preventing Soda Ash - Soap Queen) I'm pretty sure I poured at too thin a trace. I remember thinking to myself how impressed with myself I was so that I would get the details of the mold. Again, these are unscented so I wouldn't have to deal with acceleration from FO, but I guess I overcompensated too much. Hurray for learning!
 

TheGecko

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Thanks @TheGecko ! From reading Soap Queen's blog post (Explaining and Preventing Soda Ash - Soap Queen) I'm pretty sure I poured at too thin a trace. I remember thinking to myself how impressed with myself I was so that I would get the details of the mold. Again, these are unscented so I wouldn't have to deal with acceleration from FO, but I guess I overcompensated too much. Hurray for learning!

I'm halfway through my third year of soap making and haven't noticed that 'trace' has anything to do with whether I get SA or not. Unless I'm making an uncolored or single-colored soap and need to move the mold(s) right away (I make soap in my kitchen then move the filled molds to the garage), I only blend to emulsion...it's just the habit I've gotten into. Partly because I like wispy swirls and partly because I often make large batches that get sub-divided into different colors and scents. And partly because it's a really good idea when working with a new colorant, scent or additive since you never know regardless of reviews.
 
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Thanks @TheGecko ! From reading Soap Queen's blog post (Explaining and Preventing Soda Ash - Soap Queen) I'm pretty sure I poured at too thin a trace. I remember thinking to myself how impressed with myself I was so that I would get the details of the mold. Again, these are unscented so I wouldn't have to deal with acceleration from FO, but I guess I overcompensated too much. Hurray for learning!
I do see a difference in the ash amount depending on the level of trace in my soaps, as well. Perhaps it is recipe dependent or weather dependent?
 
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So, the definitive answer is that it was due to false trace.

As I was steaming the bars, I noticed a reactive pocket on one of the bars; failed the zap test. So I checked every single side of every bar. Some failed, some passed. So I brought out my crock pot and rebatched it following this video:


It was in the slow-cooker for at least three hours until it seemed as melted as it would get; not much different from the video.

I don't know if I did it correctly; but I'm not that worried about it because by now it's just an experiment and a learning opportunity. I'm wondering when I should unmold it? my regular recipe can be unmolded from loaf molds 24 hours after pouring, but is still relatively soft and fragile. I did add about a cup of water to the pot for the rebatch as I've read that you should use 1/4 cup per pound of oils and I had 2 kg. So I'm thinking it's going a little extra time to harden in the mold.

Any thoughts, advice, and words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you all <3
 

Dakotah_SoapWorks

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It's been few years since I've soaped so I may have missed something over the years. What do you mean by you "steamed" the bars?

When I rebatch, I shred the soap...like with a cheese grater or salad shooter. Then I add a little milk, not water...milk makes the soap hotter. I had to do this recently...after a few hours in the oven on 175 degrees F, it had completely turned to liquid...I was shocked! I never had it turn to liquid before. The bars are 3 weeks old now and they are fine.
 
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Hi @Dakotah_SoapWorks !

Some people steam bars that have soda ash on them. I tested a few alongside also just spraying with alcohol (no steam) and with steaming and then spraying with alcohol. The steaming and then spraying with alcohol from my tests looked the best. So, I was steaming the bars over a pot on my stove and noticed some reaction with the moisture.

I never heard about rebatching with milk! That's a good tip to keep in by back pocket for the future! Thanks!
 

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